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leaves fall from the tallest trees

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They’re back in Chicago when it happens. They’re about a month into the season, but Patrick’s already in a slump, only two points in twelve games and neither of them are goals. The media waisted no time in pouring out articles, asking if this was officially “the end of the great eighty-eight.”

Ever since he and Jonny broke twenty-eight, the media has been on their tails about passing their peak. The end of the 2018-2019 season proved they were still in their peak, in Patrick’s opinion, but the tabloids are ruthless. 

Jonny can tell Patrick’s frustrated in the way he clanches his jaw after every shift without a point, how he wakes even earlier to train, the way he exhausts himself during each of his shifts to push harder than before — and frankly, harder than necessary. 

But this time broke the dam. Patrick had gone another game without a point, and a reporter in the locker room asked him if he felt that, for the good of the team, he should be scratched from the next game.

The air in the locker room was suddenly too thick. Jonny whipped his head around, saw the way Patrick’s eyes darkened, jaw clenching, that subtle scratch of his jaw.

Jonny knows that look. It’s the look Patrick gave him when they were sceneing and Jonny came without permission, or when they got booted from the playoffs by the Canucks and the media had a field day. 

“Just because I’m in a point slump,” Patrick says slowly, choosing his words carefully, “doesn’t mean I should be scratched. My game isn’t as good as it should be, but I’m not doing any harm to the team’s play.”

“But you’re not helping.”

Patrick squints at the reporter. Jonny has no clue who this guy is; he’s new, more than likely, and isn’t making a good first impression. 

“I have two points, both assists, and both were during two separate goals that helped us win those games. I’m making plays that are setting up assists. I’m not at my best, but I am helping. Once I get out of this slump, I’ll be able to help even more.”

“But-”

“If you want to discuss my game, go talk to Colliton.” Patrick snaps, “I’ve already told you everything on the subject. Next question.”

One more question as asked, about how he thought Lehner was doing as a Hawk, before PR gets the media out of the locker room and away from Patrick.

The moment they’re gone, Patrick grabs a towel and storms off to the showers. Jonny watches him go nervously, an unsettled feeling sizzling beneath his skin at the sight of his dom being so upset.

He hurries through his own shower, but by the time he’s out, Patrick’s already dressed in his post-game suit, air pods jammed into his ears. Jonny dresses quickly, follows Patrick obediently out of the UC and to the car.

It’s Jonny’s responsibility, when one of his doms are out of it, to remind them of the power they have, that they’re loved. He sits silently as Patrick drives them home, follows two steps behind him as they walk into the condo. 

Patrick makes a beeline for the stairs. Jonny can’t stop himself from calling out, “Pat,” heart racing with nerves. Patrick turns, raises an eyebrow expectantly at him. 

“I love you.”

Patrick says nothing, just turns and goes downstairs. Jonny flinches, hand automatically going to his pocket to find his phone. He dials Geno, who picks up on the first ring.

“Jonny?”

“I don’t know what to do,” he panics, “There was this reporter who was giving Pat a hard time about his slump, and he’s really upset about it. I don’t know what to do.”

“Slow down,” Geno tells him, voice deep and gentle, soothing the rapid beating of his heart, “Take a breath. Where is Patrick now?”

“Downstairs. He hasn’t said a word since we got back. I tried to tell him I love him, but- he just walked away.”

“He’s upset. Patrick loves you, you know this.”

“I know. I’m just really worried about him.”

He hears a quiet, “Is that Jonny,” over the phone, and then Geno saying, “I put on speaker phone.”  

After a few moments of shuffling and quiet murmuring, Jonny hears, “Hi baby.”

“Sid.” Jonny frowns, “Patrick- he’s-”

“I know; Geno told me.”

“What am I supposed to do? This stuff comes naturally to you guys. I want to help him, but I don’t know how.”

“Of course you don’t. You’re trained to think like a submissive — obedient and knowing how to give doms what they need from a sexual standpoint. Dominants, on the other hand, have to be able to examine their sub and the scenario, and know how to take care of their sub based on what they’ve deduced. You haven’t been trained for that like we have.”

“So what do I do?”

“Well, Patrick is upset cause of all the mean media, yes?” Geno asks, “Maybe he should kneel.”

Jonny pauses, “Kneel?”

Sid hums, “I think that could work. You kneel when your overwhelmed, because it takes everything around you and shrinks it down so that it’s not important anymore. It gets you out of your head. I think that’s what Patrick needs right now.”

“But I’m a sub,” Jonny frowns, “What if I mess up?”

“It’s you and Kaner,” Sid says, “You won’t.”

They exchange I love you’s before hanging up. Jonny’s got to mentally prepare himself for this, because he’s not going to be acting like a dom, but he’s taking care of his boyfriend who needs him. He can’t fuck this up.

He grabs a water bottle from the fridge and a granola bar from the cupboard. Usually when Jonny kneels, they don’t need water and a snack because he’s not partaking in any kind of physical endurance, but he’s not taking any chances right now.

He grabs the kneeling pillow — Patrick took him out when they first got together to find the perfect kneeling pillow, not thin enough to feel the floor beneath his knees, but not fluffy enough to make him wobble or lose his balance — and goes upstairs.

He drops the pillow on the floor at the end of the bed, makes sure it’s positioned in the right way so they don’t have to adjust it beforehand. He sets the water and food on the mattress next to where he’ll sit, dims the lights, and goes to get his boyfriend. 

He finds Patrick in their personal weight room, pedaling hard on the elliptical. He’s sweating, already soaked through the arch of his shirt. He’s got his air pods in again, and Jonny can hesrthe music from here, so he doesn’t notice him come in. He’s stripped down to nothing but a pair of basketball shorts, evidence of his suit lying in a pile in the corner. 

Jonny’s not sure how he’s going to convince Patrick to kneel without overstepping his boundaries as a sub, or without annoying Patrick to the point of earning a punishment. He supposes if it gets to that point, he can just call Sid and Geno back and get them to talk to him.

Jonny steals Patrick’s phone from the bench where he’s laid it, going completely unnoticed. He puts in his fingerprint — because the first thing they did when they got their phones was give each other access — and turns off the Bluetooth, and then the music.

Patrick stops his deranged pedaling to turn his head in Jonny’s direction. His eyes are dark with fury, and it instinctively makes Jonny want to bare his neck. He doesn’t, keeps hold of himself, and stares Patrick down. 

“Turn the music back on,” Patrick growls.

Jonny shakes his head, “I’m worried about you.” 

“Turn the music back on,” Patrick repeats, “Don’t make me tell you again.”

“We need to talk about this.”

“Damnit, Jonny, no we don’t!” He yells, “Turn the fucking music back on right now before I bend you over the bench and beat your ass.”

Tread lightly, Jonny. 

“I know you’re upset, and you have every right to be. That reporter was a fucking dumbass and had no right to say the shit that he did.”

Patrick stands, face hard, and Jonny assumes he’s moving to spank Jonny, so he continues, “But you’re scaring me. You’ve been in slumps before and you’ve never reacted this bad.”

“The media’s never been this bad.” Patrick snaps. “Every day has at least five new articles on how my career is over, that I should be traded. So turn my music back on so I can get back to training.”

“Alright,” Jonny snarks, “and when I do, you’ll pedal so hard you tear a muscle, or rip a tendon, or fucking pass out because you’re too out of it to know your limits.”

“I fucking know my limits. Don’t talk down to me.”

“I have to, I’m taller.”

Patrick swats Jonny’s ass sharply, causing him to jump. He huffs, “Look, I’m your sub; I can’t tell you what to do. But I’m also your boyfriend, and I’m really worried about you. As a sub, I know what it’s like to want to push your limits, to give what you can’t handle for the people you want to make proud. But you can’t.” His voice breaks at the end. “You can’t.” 

Patrick stares at him for a long time. When he finally does speak, his voice is weak, but still holds a strike of sarcasm when he says, “What do you think I should do then?”

“I talked to Sid and G. They suggested kneeling.”

Patrick blinks, “I’m not a sub, and you aren’t a dom.”

Jonny shrugs, “You don’t have to be a sub to get out of your head.”

Patrick continues to stare. Jonny holds his own, eyes locked on Pat’s. They’re normally a sparkling blue, cool and glowing; but now, they’re dim, no life, no glitter, only hurt. 

Jonny reaches a hand up to cup Patrick’s cheek, thumb caressing his skin, over his bottom lip. Patrick leans into it, kisses the pad of his thumb. “Okay.”

Jonny takes his hands and leads him out of the weight room and into the bedroom. Patrick’s visibly surprised when he sees that Jonny’s already set up. Jonny sits on the end of the bed, video chats Sid and Geno so that they’re all there together.

Patrick hesitates for a moment, watching the pillow like it will spontaneously set fire if he takes his eyes off it. 

“Pat.” Geno says, and Patrick moves.

He kneels on the pillow, settling himself in between Jonny’s legs. Immediately, Jonny puts his hand on the back of Patrick’s head, rubbing up and down gently through his curls.

Patrick’s body is a ball of tenseness. Briefly, Jonny wonders if he’s this tight each time he kneels for one of his doms. Usually he’s too out of it to notice. 

“You’re good, Kaner,” Jonny murmurs, free hand resting on his shoulder to rub circles with his thumb in the dip of his collar bone, “Best hockey player, best dom, best boyfriend. Fuckin’ clutch, baby.”

Patrick exhales hard, breath shuddered. He drops his head a bit, eyes fluttering as he slowly relaxes beneath Jonny’s fingers. Slowly, one of Patrick’s hands comes up to rest on Jonny’s knee, caressing lightly. 

“You’re good, Kaner,” Jonny repeats, noticing the way Patrick shivers, then places his forehead to the side of his sub’s other knee.

After a few moments of silence, Sidney says, quiet, “We’ll let you guys go. Call us tomorrow, Jonny; that’s an order.”

“Yes, sir.” Jonny says obediently, blushing at Sidney’s smile of praise. He hangs up after Geno starts the “I love you” exchange, and all of Jonny’s attention turns back to Patrick.

He takes the hand not rubbing through his curls and cups it over his cheek. “I love you, Pat. You know that, right? I love you more than anything.” 

Those reporters are morons and don’t matter, he wants to say, Just focus on me. He knows bringing it up will cause a crossroads, because he’s been there, so he keeps quiet. 

“More than fishing?” Jonny hears, hoarse, like Patrick’s been choking back tears. When they meet eyes, he realizes Patrick has been, eyes glossed and watery. He doesn’t get like this often, but he hasn’t gotten a break from the shit media since the preseason started. Sometimes, things get bad.

“More than fishing.” Jonny agrees, laughing a little. Patrick laughs too, sniffling hard and wiping under his eyes. He lets out a heaved “ah,” shakes his head, and stands on shaky legs.

Jonny’s hands fall away from Patrick’s face, but the dom compensates by taking both of Jonny’s cheeks in his hands and kissing him breathless. 

“I love you, too, Jay,” he says, and presses their foreheads together, “What would I do without you?”

“Sulk.”

Patrick thwacks him on the temple, light. “Smart ass.” Then, he gently pushes Jonny back until he falls against the mattress with a soft thud. “You took such good care of me. Let me take care of you.”

Jonny sees tears welling up in Patrick’s eyes again. “Pat…” He sweeps his hands down his back, settling against the small of it. “What do you need?”

Patrick presses his face into Jonny’s neck. “Just remind me that I’m needed.”

“That’s all?” Jonny scoffs. “Babe, I could spend hours going on about how much I need you. You were there for every time I had bouts of insomnia. You stayed up with me and we’d binge-watch reruns of Full House and That’s So Raymond. I got through it so much easier because of you.”

Patrick shifts on top of him, hard against Jonny’s thigh. 

“And how about every time you reminded me, or a waiter, or a cashier, about my gluten and dairy problems? All the effort you put into finding ice cream shops with dairy-free products, or that bakery that only sells gluten-free items?”

Patrick mouths at Jonny’s neck, underwear getting tighter when Jonny tilts his head back in an act of submission. 

“Do you need me to tell you how hard you make me, seeing you play fucking amazing hockey, watching the shift between normal you and dom you, how hot it gets me when you put me in my place? It’s so difficult to get off without you, Pat. I need you to be there with me.”

Patrick makes a broken noise, moves his head up to kiss Jonny, hard and biting and full of dominance. “That true?”

Jonny hums as Patrick sticks a hand down the front of his pants, grabbing his cock and giving it a few rough pulls. “Mhm. Remember last year? When we met at the condo, and your flight got delayed?”

Patrick nods, shoving his own pants down to rub his bare cock against Jonny’s. Jonny whimpers, teeth biting into Patrick’s bottom lip. “Sid fingered me, and G- G jerked me off, but it took forever, cause you weren’t there.”

Patrick’s panting hard into Jonny’s mouth, but takes his hand and jerks them both, set on making Jonny unravel beneath him.

“Yeah? Can hardly come without me, huh?” He grunts, hurtling towards his orgasm, and for a moment, he thinks he might come first. But then Jonny’s shouting and coming hard between them, hips thrusting up into his grip, which has Patrick falling over the edge right after.

Jonny curls into him as soon as Patrick falls onto the bed next to him, snuggling up close. Patrick moves them up the bed and under the covers, then grabs a wad of tissues to clean them up.

“I love you, dumbass,” Jonny whispers, head pillowed against Patrick’s pecs. He kisses the swell of them, lips chapped and bitten-red, “Don’t forget that.”

“I love you, too, sap.” Patrick snorts, but kisses the top of Jonny’s head and keeps him pressed close, right by his heart where he holds him the most.